School and the Judge’s Visit

The Ecole Laique du Chemins des Dunes is the school in the south of the camp, a group of tarpaulin clad buildings around a central area containing a climbing frame for the little ones. Artworks adorn the school and soft toys have been attached to the structures to try to give a child a friendly feeling about the place.

The school is comprised of classrooms, a kitchen and a computer room, with a few very old computers.  A wood-burning stove in one of the classrooms warms the children and parents from the never-ending cold and wet of the winter.

Little tables and chairs, books, drawings and posters decorate the walls – everything you would expect from a school for juniors. The teachers are trying to teach the children French but many would prefer English.

The judge, who made the final decision whether to demolish the south, visited the camp on the 23rd February. As part of the distribution team, we were in the Jungle by 8:30, to ensure as many people were up to greet her. We should not have been concerned, as there were groups of men going round banging on the shelters ensuring as many were up and visible as possible. There was an expectation the judge would visit the school, so the parents and children were there before 9:00 o’clock in the morning. An accordion player and flautist entertained the people as they waited expectantly. When the judge did arrive, she strode straight past the school, flanked by about seven big bodyguards and a pursuing entourage of representatives from the Jungle and the press.

Information came through that the judge would not be returning via the school so everyone decamped to the Chemins des Dunes road, as she would have to drive past. The music continued and the riot police formed a barrier between the children and the road, riot shields in place to repel any surge of people when the judge’s car came into sight. As it was, the car sped past, and people dispersed back into the Jungle, enriched by the act of solidarity and hopeful that their homes and school would be spared.